What would happen if you build a refuge for a persecuted people in a place where another people already lived? In the next few minutes, you’ll learn why this moral quandary is at the root of the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians, and what you can do to help achieve a just peace for everyone in the region.
First, there are couple of things it’s helpful to understand; one: many Jews fled harsh persecution in anti-Semitic Europe, especially the Nazi holocaust. Zionists encouraged massive immigration to historic Palestine, at that time a British colony, where Jews had an age-old connection and where small Jewish communities had long existed among larger groups of indigenous peoples.
When the UN offered the Jewish immigrants the majority of a land for a new state called Israel, for the indigenous Palestinians who lived there, it was the massive destruction of life. They rejected the UN’s partition plan, and several Arab states invaded the new state of Israel.
Israeli forces essentially erased over 400 Palestinian villages and towns. By the end of the fighting, Israel controlled 78% of historic Palestine. When three quarters of a million Palestinians who fled or were expelled during fighting tried to return to their homes with a new state now stood, they were permanently barred by the Israeli government.
Well over a hundred thousand of their relatives and neighbors who haven’t left became second class citizens of the new state along with the new Jewish majority. Today, Palestinian refugees and their descendants number in the millions. Most are in the Gaza strip, the West Bank, and Jordan. Many are spread throughout the world with millions still living in refugee camps, seeking to return to their homeland.
To sum up, one group of refugees found a much needed home, but in the process, a new group of refugees was created.
Here’s the second thing to understand. Israel was founded as a Jewish state, but now ask yourself: what exactly does that mean?
People have lots of ideas about what a Jewish state should look like. Some called for equality for all citizens, but what was created in practice was institutional discrimination against non-Jews.
In other words, Israel ended up being built on a blueprint of exclusion.
The Israeli government wants maximum land and resources for Jews but not the Palestinians living there. That’s why inside Israel, Jews get special privileges, including rights to land and housing that are denied to the Palestinian citizens, who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population.
That’s also part of why Israel has never defined its borders. In fact, they still hold on to land the West Bank and Gaza that they conquered in the war in 1967.
Since then, Israel has built Jewish settlements throughout the occupied West Bank, building Jewish-only cities and supplying them with infrastructure like roads and army camps, schools, and even a college. Military occupations are meant to be temporary, but after 40 plus years, this one looks permanent and entirely unjust.
In the West Bank, Israeli Jewish settlers and Palestinians live on the same land, but must live under two completely separate and unequal systems of Israeli law. The Jewish settlers dominate the natural resources, including water and agricultural land and they’re backed by the Israeli army.
To maintain the occupation, Israel has demolished thousands of Palestinian homes and orchards, confiscated Palestinian land, bombed captive civilian population in Gaza and punished resistance with raids, arrests and assassinations, all to gain maximum land, while making life so difficult for Palestinians that they will either leave or be too afraid to resist.
Palestinians have fought back for decades. They tried to achieve national liberation through armed struggle. Some groups still do, but the majority now support popular protest instead.
The deeply harmful pattern of control, repression, and violence profoundly harms Palestinians living under occupation and Israelis living as occupiers. This must be broken to reach a peaceful and secure future for both peoples.
Now that you understand the problem, what about the solution? What about peace talks? So far, over two decades of US-backed peace talks have actually made things worse by helping Israel continue the occupation.
It’s been years of talking while Israel massively expanded the Jewish settlements and literally redrew the map. Peace talks are good if they’re real, but not when they’re theater to cover a land grab.
So now what? The current world superpower, the United States has been a terrible friend, enabling Israel’s destructive and self-destructive expansion onto Palestinian land by funding the Israeli military: the biggest recipient of US foreign aid in the world.
There’s another superpower that can make the difference: you.
There’s a movement with hundreds of thousands of people just like you across the world, including Palestinians and Israelis, protesting educating, divesting and boycotting, all to bring non-violent international pressure on Israel to stop violating human rights of Palestinians.
Throughout history, where governments have failed to push for justice, people just like you, like us, have taken the lead and won.
Now it’s the Palestinians turn for freedom and justice. We can pressure Israel to end the occupation and the discrimination.
We want all people, Jews and Palestinians, to have equality, human rights and democracy.
We can change history. Join us.